The Wild Card Races of Campaign 2020 – “Sunday Political Brunch” - September 8, 2019


PROVIDENCE, R.I – We are on the road this week looking at politics New England style. While all the attention has focused on the presidential campaign so far this year, there are some fascinating races for U.S. House, Senate, and some contests for governorships. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Almost Political Heaven!” – It was shaping up to be one of the marquee races for governor this year, but it won’t happen. For months, Sen. Joe Manchin (D) West Virginia, has toyed with the idea of running for his old job of Governor of West Virginia. The current office-holder is Gov. Jim Justice (R) West Virginia. Justice, a Manchin protégé, won the governorship in 2016 running as a Democrat. But seven months into his term, Justice stood onstage with President Trump and switched to the Republican party. He even fired Manchin’s wife from his cabinet. But Manchin decided to pass on the race this week and will be staying in the Senate.

“Georgia on My Mind” – Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) will be stepping down at the end of this year due to health concerns, after serving 20 years in Congress. He was just reelected in 2016, the Republican Governor can appoint his successor until a 2020 special election. After almost winning the governor’s race in Georgia, and flipping a Republican U.S. House seat, Democrats believe they have a real shot to win this Senate seat. Like the former solid red states of North Carolina, and Virginia, Georgia has turned more “purple” as more Northeastern and Midwestern Democrats have migrated South.

“First in the Nation, New Hampshire!” – While everyone is focused on the traditional “first in the nation” presidential primary in New Hampshire, there may be another hot race there. Sen. Jean Shaheen, who also served as governor, is up for reelection. Among those hopping to face off with her in November 2020 is President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski is very combative, loves to duel with the press, and is still beloved by his former boss. Trump loves a street fight, and you can envision him in New Hampshire often to help an old friend try to increase the GOP margin in the Senate, which currently stands at 53-47.

“Montana or Bust” – Sen. Steve Daines (R) is facing reelection and appears on an easy glidepath for reelection. But Governor Steve Bullock is term-limited, and he is running for president. His poll numbers are in the weeds, and his White House chances are grim. But Bullock is very popular in Montana and could give Daines a run for his money. Bullock insists he has no interest in the Senate, but if he changes his mind watch out. Remember, Democrats gain control with a net gain of three or four U.S. Senate seats. This is one to keep an eye on.

“Texas Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em” – When you think of Texas, it seems to be one of the most solidly red states in the nation. Or is it? Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) Texas nearly defeated Sen. Ted Cruz (R) Texas in 2018, and O’Rourke is getting lots of attention in his presidential campaign. Five Texas Republican House members have already announced they are retiring in 2020, and Democrats believe they can make significant gains. Texas (like Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, as I mentioned earlier), is seeing an influx in population and it includes a lot of Democrats.

“Apple, Tree?” – Sen. Mike Enzi (R) Wyoming will not seek a fifth term. But will Rep. Liz Cheney get into the race? The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney is a rising star in the national Republican Party and is already Chair of the House Republican Conference, the third-highest party office, in just her second term. A Senate seat would likely start getting her presidential mentions.

“The Wild, Wild Cards” – We always hear about celebrities who plan to run for public office. The anti-Trump backlash has produced legions suggesting they may run for the White House or something else. They include Oprah Winfrey, Roseanne Barr, Ron Perlman, Katy Perry, Kanye West and Alec Baldwin, among others. So far none of them has filed candidacy papers for anything. It seems we go through this every election cycle.

What races are you watching? Which candidates do you like? Just click the comment button!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virgins, its five neighboring states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Writer for The White House Patch at

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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Labor Day with Political Labor Pains - "Sunday Political Brunch" - September 1, 2019


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s Labor Day weekend, the traditional kick-off of the political campaign season. But, let’s face it, the political season kicked-off in June with the MSNBC debates, then into July with the CNN debates. On September 12, we’ll have round three of the Democratic Party debates, and a lot has changed on the landscape. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Who Made the Cut” – Only ten Democrats qualified for the ABC News debate on September 12, and all of them will debate on stage that night. They are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts, Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, Indiana, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) Texas, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, businessman Andrew Yang, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and Senator Cory Booker (D) New Jersey.

“More Drop-Outs” – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) New York left the field this week. So has Rep. Seth Moulton (D) Massachusetts, who never even got on a debate stage, (why? I am not certain). They join former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Colorado and Gov. Jay Inslee (D) Washington, who exited last week, and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) California who bolted about six weeks ago.

“So, Who Gets Their Voters?” – Each of these dropouts was only getting 1 or 2 percent of the vote, but where their supporters go can be influential on the margins. Gov. Jay Inslee was the most ardent advocate for climate change issues, so I bet his voters go to Sanders. Moulton, a Marine officer, could see his votes go to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Hawaii, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who are the only other two candidates to serve in the military. I see many Gillibrand supporters who backed Medicare-for-All and are Northeastern liberals, going to Elizabeth Warren. Hickenlooper, the solid moderate in the field, may see most of his voters switch to Biden.

“Biden v. Warren” – The one new twist is that for the first time Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren will be on the same debate stage. The MSNBC and CNN debates were split on two different nights, and the two wound up not debating each other. I’ve said before, she was the best debater in the first two rounds, while Biden was on the defensive and got knocked back on his heels a few times. These two will tangle, and this could be fascinating.

“My ‘Hawkeye’ is on Iowa” – Folks, the first state to vote matters. The latest Real Clear Politics composite poll in Iowa has 26 percent for Biden, Warren 18 percent, Sanders 14 percent, Harris 13.5 percent and Buttigieg at 7.5 percent, with neighboring Minnesotan Amy Klobuchar at 3.5 percent. The big surprise is late-entrant Tom Steyer who is already at 2.5 percent, surpassing some long-time, better-known candidates.

“Don’t Take New Hampshire for ‘Granite’” – The most recent Real Clear Politics composite poll in New Hampshire has Biden at 21 percent, Sanders 19.3 percent, Warren 14.7 percent, Harris 9 percent. Sanders and Warren play well, and stronger, in their native New England.

“South by South Carolina!” – The fourth contest after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, is South Carolina. This is often a crucial test, because South Carolina is high in African-American voters compared to the predominately white Iowa and New Hampshire. The question is, can you play well to more diverse demographics? In the latest RCB composite poll, Joe Biden is way ahead at 38 percent, followed by Sanders at 14.3 percent and Warren at 12.7, Harris at 12 percent and Pete Buttigieg at 5 percent. The trend is that if Biden wins (or does very well) in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll be hard to stop with this big lead in South Carolina.

“The Votes of Red October” – I know you are probably overwhelmed, and don’t want to hear this, but there will be another round of debates in October. I won’t explain the weird rules for qualifying (and I’m not sure I can), but it’s possible the “September 10” candidates will be joined on stage with Rep. Gabbard and businessman Tom Steyer, who just missed qualifying in September. Please, if we have 12, split it into two nights, with two “six packs” of candidates!

Who are you backing, and have your loyalties changed after the first two rounds of debates? Just click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five neighboring states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for The White House Patch at

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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